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Cannabinoids could provide relief from neuropathic pain

A three-year neuropathic pain (pre-clinical) study by Cannasouth has confirmed that cannabinoids from medicinal cannabis could be effective at reducing debilitating neuropathic pain, which affects about 400,000 New Zealanders or 8 percent of the country’s population.

The study to understand the potential of cannabis as an alternative therapeutic to treat neuropathic pain is the first of its kind in New Zealand. It is part of Cannasouth’s science-led programme of commercially focused research aimed at developing next-generation medicinal cannabis products and valuable IP.

Neuropathic pain generally results from physical damage, infection, and disorders such as diabetes. It is caused by damage or injury to the nerves that transfer information between the brain and spinal cord from the skin, muscles, and other parts of the body. The pain is usually described as a burning sensation and affected areas are often overly sensitive to the touch (allodynia) and has a significant adverse impact on quality of life.

Cannasouth Chief Scientific Officer David Gill says neuropathic pain is currently poorly managed by the traditional first-line treatment options available in New Zealand.

“These options include anti-convulsant drugs, such as gabapentin or antidepressants. However, both these medicines have the potential to cause significant drug interactions or have adverse effects on patients, including sedation and addiction.

“Cannabinoids could provide a much-needed alternative treatment option for doctors and patients. The data from our research clearly demonstrates the comparable efficacy of cannabinoids to gabapentin.”

David says the investigational phase of this study has provided Cannasouth with significantly more understanding and intellectual property in a critically important area of neuroscience. He believes sharing this knowledge will benefit Cannasouth, doctors and patients alike.

“By releasing some of our findings, we want to bring doctors and patients along with us on this journey of discovery. We want to share exciting milestones like this with them and give them confidence that medicinal cannabis could be a viable treatment option for neuropathic pain.

“The implications of these findings are significant. There is real potential for this research to help us develop advanced cannabinoid therapeutic products ready for human efficacy and drug delivery-controlled trials.

“It means we are one step closer to developing medicines that could potentially improve the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders.”

Cannasouth is now in the process of seeking a partner to progress the clinical development of these medicines.

The research was co-funded by Callaghan Innovation and led by Prof. Brett Langley and Marion McKinnon (PhD candidate) at The University of Waikato. Ms. McKinnon will be presenting the research findings at the Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research in Queenstown on 28-30 August 2022.

The Research & Findings

The research determined the efficacy of cannabinoids in alleviating symptoms in a pre-clinical model for distal to proximal peripheral neuropathy and neuropathic pain (Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 2A (CMT2A)).

As part of the research, a dosing study was conducted using oral Cannabinoid formulations (cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol) using placebo and a positive control, gabapentin at clinically relevant dose.

Post-administration testing was used to assess mechanical allodynia and thermal hyperalgesia. Cannabinoid efficacy was comparable to gabapentin following single and multiple doses, with an observable faster onset of action in the first 4 hours.  No effect was noted for the placebo formulation.

The study indicated a clear strategy for CBD and THC doses which provided greatest improvement in pain symptoms. The dose equaled gabapentin for efficacy in improving thermal hyperalgesia across eight hours of testing.

The pre-clinical efficacy also indicates further investigation is warranted into cannabis compounds for the treatment of neuropathic pain symptoms.

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